French Grammar Guide for non-francophones

Direct Object Pronouns (e.g.: me, te, le, la, etc.)

Overview of Direct Object Pronouns

A direct object comes right after the verb, without an intervening preposition. Consider the following:

  • a) Je mange une pomme.
  • b) Je parle à ma soeur.

In a), une pomme is a direct object; in b) ma soeur is an indirect object since there is a preposition between it and the verb. Direct object pronouns replace the first type, for example:

  • Je mange une pomme > Je la mange ("I eat it").
  • Elle connaît Robert > Elle le connaît ("She knows him").

Direct objects answer the question "What?" or "Who?" ("... is affected by the verbal action?"). For example, in the previous examples, we can ask "What did I eat?" (une pomme), "Who does she know?" (Robert). We know then that  pronouns which replace these are direct object pronouns.

French direct object pronouns appear in the following table:

English French Example
me me Il me voit ("He sees me").
you (tu) te Il te voit ("He sees you").
it, him le Il le voit  ("He sees him/it").
it, her la Il la voit  ("He sees her/it").
them les Il les voit  ("He sees them").
us nous Il nous voit ("He sees us").
you (vous) vous Il vous voit ("He sees you").

Position of Direct Object Pronouns

Unlike English, French direct object pronouns come immediately before the verb, e.g.:

  • Je te vois.
  • Je les vois.
  • On la voit.
  • On nous voit.

When used in the passé composé, they precede the verb avoir, e.g.:

  • Je t'ai vu.
  • Je les ai vus.
  • On l'a vue.
  • On nous a vus.

However, when used with other conjugated verbs followed by an infinitive, direct object pronouns come after the first verb and before the infinitive, e.g.:

  • Je peux te voir.
  • Je dois les voir.
  • Je veux la voir.
  • Ils aimeraient nous voir.

The one context where direct object pronouns do in fact follow the verb is in an imperative (a command), e.g.:

  • Faites-le!
  • Mange-la!
  • Écoutez-moi!

Note that, as in the last example, me becomes moi and te becomes toi in an imperative (all the other ones remains the same, e.g.: Écoutez-la = "Listen to her"). Note also that in imperatives, the direct object is attached to the verb with a hyphen.

Past Participle Agreement

When a direct object precedes the verb, the past participle agrees with it in number and gender, e.g.:

  • ... une pomme ...  je l'ai mangée
  • ... des filles ... je les ai vues

 You can find more information about past participle agreement here.

 

  • Be sure to place direct object pronouns before the main verb.
  • Make sure me, te, le and la change to m', t', and l' if the next word begins with a vowel, e.g.: Paul l'aime.
  • Make sure past participles agree with direct object pronouns if they are feminine or plural.
  • Use direct object pronouns with the verbs aimer, écouter and aider (e.g.: Je les aide and NOT Je leur aide).

 

 
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